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How to organise a Beneficiary Assessment (BA), Basic Steps & Timing

As with any meaningful learning process, a BA requires careful planning and sufficient time (normally 6-8 months from initial planning to final report). This does not have to be overwhelming, however. It is mostly a matter of following a set of seven basic steps, summarized below. Templates for various tasks within the steps can be found on the BA tools and templates page.

 

​​Basic Steps

 

(7 Steps)


Step 1: Initial Planning

Key Elements

  • Identify Trainer/Backstopper and National Facilitator
  • Create process overview
  • BA approach described in inception report [SDC download] [EXTERNAL download]
  • Select BA intervention areas
  • Select Citizen Observers


Additional Planning

  • Trainer & Facilitator to be contracted early in process
  • Inception report includes BA objectives and descriptions of methodology, intervention areas and overall process
  • Project staff provide key information and contacts for intervention areas


Indicative Timeline

  • Months 1-3


Step 2: Training and Validation of Method and Tools

Key Elements

  • Draft tools created for assessment framework, interviews, etc.
  • Workshop with Facilitators and Trainer/Backstopper to validate and finalize tools
  • Workshop with Citizen Observers for field research training
  • Logistical arrangements made for field research


Additional Planning

  • Facilitator training workshop develops initial assessment framework from project logframe, interview templates, field research plan and CO training curriculum
  • CO training finalizes assessment framework and field research plan, and includes a field test
  • Logistical details facilitated by project implementer, include liaison with local leaders re: CO selection, field testing and field research


Indicative Timeline

  • Months 3-5


Step 3: Implementation

Key Elements

  • Facilitator(s) and COs conduct field research (ca. 2 weeks)


Additional Planning

  • A Facilitator and Co-Facilitator could each work with CO subgroups for parallel field research
  • COs and Facilitator(s) reflect on emerging results daily


Indicative Timeline

  •  Month 5

 

Step 4: Analysis

Key Elements

  • Facilitator(s) conduct initial analysis
  • Facilitator(s) prepare inputs for Validation workshop (description of BA, presentation of results)


Additional Planning

  • Results informed by discussions with COs during field research
  • Trainer/Backstopper provides feedback on initial analysis and Validation workshop design


Indicative Timeline

  • Month 6


Step 5: Validation of Results

Key Elements

  • Validation workshop invitations to main stakeholders
  • Logistical arrangements made for validation workshop
  • Facilitator/Trainer facilitates validation workshop


Additional Planning

  • COs and key local stakeholder groups, including project implementer, are invited
  • Donor is invited


Indicative Timeline

  • Month 7


Step 6: Reporting and Distribution

Key Elements

  • Facilitator finalizes report
  • Donor, other core stakeholders distribute report
  • Additional media/events for reflection on results


Additional Planning            

  • Post-Validation workshop report commented on by Trainer/Backstopper, donor and implementer
  • Final version of report produced, provided to relevant stakeholders and published


Indicative Timeline

  • Months 7-8


Step 7: BA follow up

Key Elements

  • Implementer and donor reflect on implications of BA and take relevant action


Additional Planning

  • Perhaps one of the most difficult steps, as project or program cycle may not create opening for adjustment, but of high importance to give BA meaning


Indicative Timeline

  • Months 8-12
 

​​BA Timing - When to Consider Doing a BA

 

As a BA is intended to both provide insight into project impact and feed into future planning, the two most important timing issues are that a project (or potentially a programme):

  1. Is sufficiently far into its implementation that possible outcomes can be expected to be visible, and
  2. Is at a stage where followup action is part of the agenda (e.g. around the time of an end of phase report, a mid-term review or other planned evaluation exercise)

 

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​​Additional Notes

 

As with most research exercises, it is sometimes necessary or useful to adapt the methodological approach to suit local circumstances. In addition, and depending on levels of experience and complexity of task, it is highly recommended to consider the following possible BA elements:

  • Engagement of a Co-Facilitator as well as a Facilitator to allow for more intensive field research over the same time period as well as greater research efficiency
  • Inclusion of a pair of extra Citizen Observers in the CO training workshop, to allow for possible dropping out/deselection during training, or absence during the field research period due to illness or family emergency
  • Use of visual methods for training in the case of COs with low literacy levels
  • Use of video to illustrate good practice and areas for improvement in training exercises
  • Use of photos/video/stories from households collected during field research to enhance readability and accessibility of the BA report

 

How to organise a BA, see the BA How-to Note (PDF) 

Description of how a BA was conceived and implemented in Southern Africa, from the point of view of an SDC Regional Programme Manager (PDF)

 

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 Key Document